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Dick Harter has long been regarded as one of the top defensive minds in basketball. Harter, who was the first head coach of the Charlotte Hornets franchise, was most recently an assistant coach for Larry Bird in Indiana. Harter will be NBA.com’s Playoff Correspondent throughout NBA Playoffs 2001.
The opening weekend of the NBA Playoffs has come and gone, and several series have gone according to plan. San Antonio did what they had to do by holding the home court advantage and sending the series back to Minnesota up 2-0.
After a tough first game, San Antonio came back, played very strongly and won in business-like fashion Monday night.
Utah’s experience prevailed and that got them a Game 1 win over Dallas on Saturday. Now the series becomes interesting as Utah tries to protect their home court against a very good Dallas team. And the Lakers certainly got off and played well, while Portland continued to unravel.
A big surprise in the first round was in Philadelphia where the top-seeded Sixers succumbed to a late Pacers rally and a three-pointer by Reggie Miller in the game’s final seconds.
I don’t know if there’s ever been a player in the history of the NBA that’s made more big shots than Reggie. The fact that he made that clutch shot is certainly not a surprise, as we’ve come to expect that from Reggie. He has supreme confidence, particularly when things aren’t going well, to still keep having the courage to make the play or take the chance down the stretch.
I think his comments after the game about how he thought he had a great chance of making it, even after shooting just 4-of-20, is what he’s all about.
But the surprising thing about that game was maybe not Reggie’s performance but that the Sixers allowed that type of lead to get away from them at home. I think Larry Brown has got to be very concerned right now. The Sixers built up a tremendous amount of poise and confidence in the first half of the season when they won close games down the stretch by playing suffocating defense. That’s not happening any longer and I think that Larry Brown has the toughest coaching job this week of anybody of rallying his team.
The fact that the Pacers beat the Sixers in the playoffs the past two years didn’t come into play going into this series, but I would think it is starting to now. Going in, Philadelphia said it’s a new year, but now after losing a big lead at home, they’ve got to be saying to themselves, “Can we ever beat this team?” They swept the Pacers in the regular season, but now they may be feeling snakebitten.
To turn things around, Allen Iverson has to get to the free-throw line a lot more than he did in Game 1. He’s got to start driving hard. Indiana did a great job of not committing cheap touch fouls on him in Game 1. As much as Philly needs Aaron McKie and Eric Snow to shoot the ball well, I think the key might be how much Iverson gets to the free throw line.
If Philadelphia comes back and gets a win, I think it’s going to be a great five-game series. But if Indiana gets Game 2, I don’t think there is any doubt they are going to get close the Sixers out at home.
The most surprising series of the first round has been between Miami and Charlotte. Going in, Miami was one of the favorites to emerge from the Eastern Conference, but they ran into a Charlotte team that turned it on at the right time and is playing really well. I think that can be attributed to Paul Silas and his very calm demeanor. Sometimes in the playoffs, it’s a tremendous advantage to have your team play with confidence and calmness. This was not noticeable during the regular season as the Hornets were a very erratic team. When they’re good, they’re very, very good. When they’re bad, they’re very, very bad. But right now Charlotte is playing very strongly. Right now they’ve got to be considered a threat to anybody in the East because I don’t know
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